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Culture and Development

“Culture and Development”: cultural diversity is an engine for development

One of the main objectives of UNESCO is to strengthen the links between culture and development. The UNESCO Bangkok Office seeks to show that the resources of culture have a great importance for the sustainable development and social cohesion 

Cultural diversity is a source of creativity. As such, it offers new responses to development challenges, enlarging choices and capabilities, and increasing chances for a positive outcome. A thorough understanding of cultural backgrounds allows tailoring programmes rather than merely replicating activities all over diverse regions. For that reason, programme managers are encouraged to work closely with target groups. Drawing on their cultures, experiences and aspirations will create innovative and unique development interventions. These are also likely to be more relevant, with a stronger and longer impact.

Why is it important to mainstream cultural diversity in development programming?

Culture is a determining factor for the relevance, failure and success of development interventions, often overlooked by policy makers and programme officers. In a context of globalization and race to economic development, the lack of cultural understanding has often backfired, resulting in ineffective projects and wasted investments. Well-meaning development programmes may aim at improving the living conditions of at-need populations. But too often infrastructures remain underutilized or social programmes misunderstood because the target group was not enough involved or cultural aspects were ignored. 

UNESCO designed the Cultural Diversity Lens - a tool that can be used to identify gaps and shortcomings in development programmes/projects and promote cultural diversity.

“The UN for Development”: cultural diversity is part of an international commitment


The United Nations were created and have functioned since 1948 within the Human Rights-Based framework. Cultural rights are one of the 5 core human rights, along with civil, economic, political and social rights .These rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible, inter-dependent and inter-related. As such, cultural rights cannot be singled out or ignored, to the profit of one or more of the other rights. It is the responsibility of all UN agencies and all Member States signatories of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rightsthe 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the subsequent conventions to ensure full respect of all 5 core human rights.

To learn more about the contribution of culture to sustainable development from our Headquarters site, click here.